The word “download” conjures
up nightmares for some people. Thoughts can run rampant about viruses,
trojans, out-of-control ad-ware, etc. Be that as it may, the options or
single focus work of some freeware and shareware programs is simply too
tempting to ignore. Therefore, when you download software (even commercially
packaged software from an online site), be sure to consider these, and
other, commonsense guideline strategies. If you hit a snag, some freeware
and shareware programs may even help solve your problems. (The guidelines
are in no particular order.)
Choose your download site carefully.
Not all sites do the extra efforts to test software for stability, usability,
spyware, viruses, etc. Major sites, with large repositories of files and
a track record of millions of downloads, generally screen and review each
program very carefully. The site, as well as editors of major computer
publications — PC Magazine, Computer Shopper, PC World,
etc. — carefully review each program and usually have some type of mini-review
somewhere (publication or Web site).
Look for information.
Before you begin a download, look for professional reviews and/or comments
from everyday users. The better download sites offer informed reviews and
popularity (number of downloads) of each program. Some also let visitors
comment on the pros and cons of the software. So, it makes sense to let
somebody else's PC serve as the guinea pig.
Ask yourself whether you need the software.
Microsoft bundles numerous utilities in each version of Windows, including
hard drive scanners, defragers, system monitors, and data backup programs.
If a Windows tool can do the trick, why bother with a download? Some programs,
however, are built to make other programs faster or better.
Check whether the software author or vendor offers technical support.
If the software you want is a demo version of a retail package, you
may find a phone number; if it's a homemade utility from a single programmer,
you may have to settle for an e-mail address. Generally, Freeware and Shareware
programmers have a “day job” and program after work. Be considerate of
their time and home life. Also watch the time zone differences and don’t
make late calls to the programmer.
Read the software agreement and monitor the installation.
Yes, read the whole entire agreement, before you download. If you can’t
live with the terms, don’t download! Also, closely monitor the installation.
These two steps are the best way to find out whether your nifty free or
nominal fee program carries an extra, unadvertised spyware bonus pack.
If you have trouble deciphering the agreement, check to see whether the
download shows up on Spy Checker,
an easily searchable public database that has information on which downloads
include spyware and adware.
If you accidentally download and install adware or spyware
and then want to get rid of it, start by seeing if the program's maker
or seller offers an uninstall program. If not, see if you can find others
who have already mastered this task and follow the advice they offer. You
might also give Lavasoft's free Ad-aware program a try. It spots and removes
most of the major offenders. Make sure, however, that you get the most
up-to-date files so you don't miss anything.
Uninstall with prejudice.
If you run into problems with software, don't hesitate to get rid of
it. If a program has no uninstall feature, you might also try using Windows'
Add/Remove program. If that doesn't work, consider 4Developers' Add/Remove
4Good, a $13 shareware product that lets you completely remove up to seven
programs during its free trial period.
Carefully clean out the stray and unnecessary DLLs and leftover Windows
Registry entries that uninstalled software often leaves behind. Knowledgeable,
confident users can do this manually. The rest of us are probably better
off letting a reliable program, such as Easy Desk Software's Perfect Companion,
do the job. It is free to try, but $30 to keep.
Conflicts can be managed. Some Freeware and Shareware programs can
cause conflicts when installed. Consider that if you install more than
one program and then have trouble, you may not be able to pinpoint the
offender. So, after you have installed a new program, try waiting a few
days before you install another. That way you will know exactly which program
to “execute,” er, I mean “Kill,” (not good either) ????? You know what
to do, so just “Do It!”